A peak advocacy body for domestic and family violence services in NSW expects the end of the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme will inflict a “double-whammy” on people at risk of violence.
The wage subsidy , leaving an estimated 150,000 Australians unemployed after it was brought in at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Sunday “encouraging signs across all sectors” led to the government’s decision to end JobKeeper and that the scheme had “achieved its objectives”.
But the end of the program has Women's Safety NSW fearing an increase in domestic violence incidents, given the direct impact financial insecurity has on the scourge.
“Economic distress is not the cause of domestic violence and abuse, but it is known to exacerbate it, and that’s exactly what frontline specialists have observed since COVID-19 and the period beyond,” CEO Hayley Foster told SBS News.
“[The end of JobKeeper] could create a bit of a double whammy, because financial distress also reduces the ability for anyone escaping violence if they themselves don't have the economic security to be able to do so.
“That really acts as an additional barrier, so women and their children find it so much harder to leave.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased risks and incidents of domestic and family violence.
The United Nations has called it a “shadow pandemic” and Ms Foster said the past 12 months have been the worst for domestic and family violence in her close to 20 years in the sector.
In July last year, an found around one in 10 women had experienced domestic violence during the pandemic and two-thirds experienced worsening abuse or abuse for the first time.
Ms Foster also said 98 per cent of frontline domestic violence workers Women’s Safety NSW surveyed coming out of the initial COVID-19 lockdowns and into the economic recovery period thought maintaining JobKeeper and JobSeekers payments was important for women's safety.
Women's legal experts they expected a surge in demand for domestic violence services when extra financial coronavirus support would be wound back.
Multicultural groups also due to an inability to access JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
Ms Foster said Australia needs to “come to grips” with the direct link between financial security and domestic violence and do more to fiscally support those at risk.
“At the end of the day, we can provide housing and homelessness support and provide support services and they are critically important. But if we are going to expect victims of family violence to be able to escape from that situation, we need to make it actually possible in reality for them to do so,” she said.
“We'd really like a reconsideration of what we as a society are expecting, single mothers with children to live on. If we don't, if we can't ensure they have enough resources to do that, then we're not giving them a safe exit from domestic and family violence.”
According to the by advocacy group Destroy the Joint, 55 women in Australia - more than one a week – allegedly died as a result of violence, domestic or otherwise last year. The same group says nine have died so far in 2021.
Last week, the federal government to allow domestic violence victims fleeing relationships to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation accounts on compassionate grounds.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds who are experiencing family or domestic violence can contact inTouch, the Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, on 1800 755 988 or visit .